Tony and Kari Langeling and son Ryan are enjoying Kari’s creative and health-minded approach to meals in the home.
Tony and Kari Langeling and son Ryan are enjoying Kari’s creative and health-minded approach to meals in the home.
Monday, August 23, 2010

Kari (Auen) Lengeling, of West Des Moines, never had the desire to become a great cook, but a medical diagnosis almost a year and half ago, forced her to experiment in the kitchen.

Until then, Kari was content with supplying the fruit or veggie tray for gatherings with family and friends. Kari, a 1996 Carroll High graduate, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in April of 2009. She had not been feeling well for months. She was experiencing many symptoms such as intense stomach discomfort, sinus infections, canker sores, weight loss, and was tired all the time. “I felt rotten,” says Kari. She sought testing at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and received a diagnosis.

Celiac disease is an inherited, autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten and other proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats. This condition is not managed through medication — instead sufferers find relief through a modified diet by avoiding all foods containing gluten.

Kari and her husband, Tony, a 1995 Carroll High School graduate, who is an attorney with Aviva Life Insurance in Des Moines, have taken on this new challenge and embraced an all-around healthier lifestyle. They eat less processed foods, eat more fresh produce, and use all natural cleaning products. Their son, Ryan, almost three, doesn’t always eat gluten-free, but Tony fully embraces the gluten-free meals Kari prepares. The couple also enjoys working out, so healthier eating goes hand in hand.

Many who follow a gluten-free lifestyle suffer from Celiac Disease or are sensitive to gluten, but it has also become quite en vogue in Hollywood.

Some are choosing to eat “GF” or gluten-free on their own, causing a new celebrity diet trend. There are numerous foods marketed toward those with gluten intolerance, however Kari prefers to try to find as many foods as possible that are naturally gluten-free. Much of the GF food sold in the organic section of the grocery store are two to three times more expensive than non-GF food.

Kari also finds it more desirable to stay away from foods that contain a substitute for the ingredient made of gluten. She says out of all the foods she is no longer able to eat, pasta is the one she misses most. She says gluten-free pasta is much different than regular pasta, not only a big difference in taste, but also texture and consistency.

Kari has been able to find a few favorite restaurants in the Des Moines area that cater to a gluten-free lifestyle. She has to be very careful how food is prepared and what she eats. Dinner time at home takes twice as long as she has to thoroughly clean the kitchen after preparing food for her son in order to avoid cross contamination. She always washes her hands after touching his food, even if it’s only a few crackers.

Kari finds most of her recipes online and in GF cookbooks. She subscribes to daily recipes at and also uses to search for gluten-free recipes. If she likes the recipe she prints it out and keeps it in a binder. She also attends a support group at the Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines that meets about four times a year. At these gatherings, attendees share food and recipes. She also receives an online newsletter regarding a gluten-free lifestyle.

All of the following recipes can be eaten by anyone not following a gluten-free diet and any of the gluten-free ingredients can be substituted for regular ingredients. Many gluten-free items can be found in the organic section of the grocery store such as Hy-Vee in Carroll.

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

These yummy cookies are requested by Kari’s nieces and nephews. Liz, Nick, and Sam (children of Troy and Lisa Auen of Carroll) and Ben, Sarah, and Tyler (children of Steve and Kris Auen of Carroll) ask her to whip up a batch of these cookies every time she visits. She said the Lengeling family is also a fan of these cookies along with her GF pumpkin bread and GF banana bread.

Kari was given this recipe by Marci (Baumhover) Hayes, a fellow 1996 Carroll High grad, also living in West Des Moines with Celiac Disease. Marci has been a huge support to Kari, even accompanying her to the grocery store the first few times after her diagnosis to serve as her “guide.” Kari said her first trips to the grocery store alone were so daunting it took up to three hours per trip.
This recipe does not contain any special ingredients. It is naturally gluten-free. Any type of peanut butter will work, including creamy, chunky, honey roasted, and all natural. These cookies come out very soft from the oven, so letting them cool on a cookie sheet for five minutes is essential. 

1 cup peanut butter (any kind)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chocolate chips (peanut butter chips will work as well)
*Add chopped walnuts or M&Ms, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients with an electric mixer.

Drop by the spoonful on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 9 minutes or until puffed and golden (cookies will be very soft).

Let cookies cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes.

Remove to cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen cookies

Tacos with Chile-Lime Chicken

These tacos are Kari’s mother, Miriam Auen’s, favorite. She often requests that Kari make them when she comes for a visit. Kari recently made this dish while in Okoboji with family. She doubled the recipe to serve a crowd. The recipe came from the book, “Gluten-Free Quick and Easy.” Kari serves these tacos in soft corn tortillas, which are naturally gluten free, but hard shell or flour tortillas could also be used. This dish is perfect in the summer months when tomatoes are in season.

1 pound cooked chicken, shredded
juice and zest of one lime
2 teaspoons purchased gluten-free taco seasoning (sold in a packet, McCormick, Spice Islands, Ortega)
6 tablespoons gluten-free salsa for chicken and beans, plus additional for topping

1 can (14.5 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 soft corn tortillas

2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup chopped plum or Roma tomatoes

3 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 cup guacamole (*optional)

1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, lime juice and zest, seasoning, and 3 tablespoons of the salsa; set aside.

2. Mash the black beans slightly with a fork in a separate bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the salsa and the salt; set aside.

3. Fill each taco shell with chicken, beans, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and guacamole in whichever order you wish. Add salsa to taste.

Hawaiian Chicken Kebabs

These sweet and savory kebabs are ideal for grilling season. Kari said these tasty kebabs are a hit with her family, even her brothers Troy Auen and Steve Auen, both of Carroll, were surprised when they first tasted them. All of the ingredients are naturally gluten-free, with the exception of soy sauce.


1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast

1/2 medium pineapple

1 medium green pepper
1 medium sweet red pepper

1 large Spanish onion

1/4 cup pineapple juice or orange juice

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons low-sodium gluten-free soy sauce

1 teaspoon olive oil
cooking spray

2 cups cooked brown or white rice, kept hot


1. Cut each chicken breast, pineapple, pepper, and onion into approximately 24 1-inch-thick pieces. Combine chicken, pineapple juice, garlic, soy sauce and olive oil in a large non-metallic bowl; marinate in refrigerator for at least on hour and up to 24 hours.

2. Preheat grill, lightly coat vegetable with cooking spray. Thread two pieces of pepper, chicken and onion onto each of 8 skewers. Brush with marinade. (Note: if using wooden skewers, soak in water to prevent charring.)
3. Grill over medium-hot coals until chicken is completely cooked, about 8-10 minutes, turning kebabs every 2 minutes so they’re cooked evenly on all sides. Yields two kabobs and 1/2 cup rice per serving.

Slow Cooker GF Chicken Taco Soup

Kari found this satisfying dish on a gluten-free website and likes to make it during cold, winter weather. She also makes it for family get-togethers.

1 onion, chopped

1 (16 ounce) can chili beans

1 (15 ounce) can black beans (rinsed and drained)

1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (12 fluid ounces) bottle gluten-free beer such as Anheuser Busch Redbridge

2 (10 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained

1 (1.25 ounce) package gluten-free taco seasoning (Ortega or McCormick)

3 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts

shredded Cheddar cheese, for garnish

sour cream, for garnish

gluten-free tortilla chips (crushed) for garnish

Place the onion, chili beans, black beans, corn, tomato sauce, beer, and diced tomatoes in a slow cooker. Add taco seasoning and stir to blend. Lay chicken breasts on top of the mixture, pressing down slightly until just covered by the other ingredients. Set slow cooker on low, cover, and cook for 5 hours. Remove chicken breasts from the soup and allow to cool long enough to be handled. Shred the chicken, stir back into the soup, and continue cooking on low for 2 hours. Top with shredded Cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream and crushed tortilla chips, if desired.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

This salad is light and refreshing and is perfect with a spring or summer meal. All of the ingredients are naturally gluten-free except for the white wine vinegar. Kari said toasted almonds or pine nuts add a delicious crunch.


2 bunches spinach, rinsed and torn into bit-size pieces

4 cups sliced strawberries

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 gluten-free white wine vinegar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon poppy seeds
*add toasted almonds or pine nuts, if desired

1. In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and strawberries (and almonds or pine nuts).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, paprika, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds. Pour over the spinach and strawberries and toss to coat.